The first thing that many consumers and business owners consider when it comes to their internet service provider (ISP) is price. While price is definitely important, it’s not the only factor when making your decision. As a business owner, you need a service that’s both affordable and reliable. It doesn’t make sense to go for the cheapest internet option if isn’t going to work reliably for your growing business.
So much of what we do happens online, so having a strong internet connection keeps your business agile and adaptable to the changing marketplace. Using this short guide, you’ll be prepared to make the right choice for your business ISP needs. Here’s how to select the best ISP for your small business in five easy steps.
1. Assess Speed Requirements
The first step in choosing the right ISP for your small business needs is to understand what speeds your business requires. Speed has a direct impact on the price of your service, so if you choose a speed that’s too fast for your business needs, you may be paying too much for your service. On the other hand, if you’re only focused on pricing, you may not get the speeds that you need for your business to be successful.
Businesses that regularly transfer large files of data, host regular web conferencing, or supporting a large number of employees often need faster speeds than smaller businesses that use the internet for general browsing, emailing, and basic file storage.
Internet speeds are often broken down into three general speed categories, although many ISPs offer various plans within each of the speed tiers.
1 – 100 Mbps: Although you won’t find many plans out there that offer less than 10 Mbps when it comes to download speeds, this tier represents the entry-level internet plans that are available with most service providers. In fact, there are many service providers who offer 50 Mbps or even 100 Mbps as their starting internet speed.
This range of speed is ideal for low-bandwidth internet usage, such as emails, light video conferencing, and the ability to support multiple employees. You’ll notice a significant difference between the low end of the scale and the high end of the scale, and the more employees you have on the same connection, the faster your internet speeds will need to be.
100 – 500 Mbps: Generally seen as mid-tier speeds, speeds in this range allow larger groups to use internet-heavy software, such as larger file sharing and video conferencing with multiple attendees. As your business grows, you’ll need to adjust your internet speeds to keep up with your business.
If you’re exploring the possibilities of e-commerce, this speed range is great for small businesses. It’s fast enough to support increased traffic to your site while still being affordable and reliable.
500+ Mbps: If you’re experiencing explosive growth, certain fiber connections allow you to have well over 500 Mbps. Speeds in this range allow you to fully focus on your business operations without having to worry about your internet connection and reliability.
While certainly more expensive than lower-tiered speeds, fiber connections are extremely fast and reliable, and are the perfect internet solution for businesses that are growing quickly.
If your current speeds aren’t meeting your business needs, you may want to consider running a speed test to see where your current speed benchmarks are, then continue with your ISP research.
2. Understanding Various Internet Options
Now that we’ve discussed speeds, let’s talk about the various internet connection types that are available today. The type of connection you select often dictates the maximum speed you can purchase, so it’s important to understand what connection types are out there before making your decision.
The three most common internet connection types are cable, DSL, and fiber connections. Each offers its own benefits and limitations, and depending on where your business is located, you may not have all three options available to you.
Cable connections use wires, often copper, to connect your business to the internet. It is the most widely available internet connection type and can offer very fast speeds. If you’re moving your business into an already existing building, chances are you’re already set up for a cable internet connection. A DSL connection uses an existing telephone line to connect to the internet. These connections are often less expensive than cable connections, but are significantly slower, and should be avoided unless your business has no other internet option.
Finally, you may have the option for a fiber internet connection. A relatively newer internet connection technology, fiber offers the fastest internet speeds available at affordable prices. Rather than using metal connections to pass internet data, fiber connections use light in conjunction with plastic or glass fibers, creating ultra-fast internet connections. Fiber isn’t available everywhere, but if you do have fiber options in your area, fiber is definitely the way to go.
3. Research the ISP Experience
Just as important as the speed and pricing of the internet connection is your overall experience with the internet service provider. While we all hope that there won’t be any issues with our internet service, sometimes things happen, and the way that a service provider reacts and responds to customer issues is an important consideration for your business.
As a business that will more than likely conduct business and sales on the internet, you need an ISP that provides you with a reliable connection. Additionally, they need to respond to your concerns and internet issues quickly. The longer you’re without a connection, the more money your business may lose.
Research various ISP support teams, service hours, and average internet downtime. You also want to review if there are any data caps that come with your service contract. If you do have a data cap and your business goes over the cap, you’ll be hit with hefty overage fees.
4. Plan Your Budget and Get Multiple Quotes
Now it’s time to consider pricing, and where shopping around can work to your benefit. Many ISPs have advertised business pricing on their websites, but you should always contact each provider individually to get a personalized quote. You may be able to negotiate costs and services, and if you mention that you’re shopping around at a few providers, you might be able to get an even better deal.
How important is your internet connection to your day to day operations? If you’re a growing business that relies heavily on your internet connection, you may want to consider allocating a larger amount of money every month to accommodate for a higher-quality internet connection.
5. Don’t Be Afraid to Switch After Starting Service
Once you’ve signed up for your new internet service, don’t be afraid to switch providers if you’re not happy with your service. Whether you’re not getting the speeds that you were promised or the connection isn’t as reliable as you were told, changing providers may be necessary for your business to be successful. Look at your service contract thoroughly before signing, as many providers have a termination fee if you decide to switch before the contract terms are up.